As an archipelago of 7,107 islands with a total land area of approximately 300,000 square kilometers (116,000 square miles) and with abundant species of fauna and flora. It is located between 116° 40', and 126° 34' E. longitude, and 4° 40', and 21° 10' N. latitude, and borders the Philippine Sea on the east, the South China Sea on the west, and the Celebes Sea on the south. The island of Borneo is located a few hundred kilometers southwest, and Taiwan is located directly to the north. The Moluccas and Sulawesi are located to the south-southwest, and Palau is located to the east of the islands.
The Philippines is considered as the Paradise of the Pacific because of her rich natural and human resources. She enchants and blesses people from all races with her colorful and remarkable cultures and traditions.
The Philippines is divided into three island groups: Luzon (Regions I to V, NCR and CAR), Visayas (VI to VIII), and Mindanao (IX to XIII and ARMM). The port of Manila, on Luzon, is the capital city and the second largest city after Quezon City.
A former colony of Spain and the United States, the Philippines is one of two predominantly Roman Catholic countries in Asia, the other being East Timor. There are also a number of minority religious groups, including Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and other beliefs. Multiple ethnicities, and cultures are found throughout the islands. Ecologically, the Philippines is one of the most diverse countries in the world. (Banaue Rice Terraces of Cordillera above and Underground River of Palawan right.)
Around 90% of Filipinos are Catholics. A young Filipino child is basically taught catechism by his / her parents or guardians. No matter how hard or easy life is, a typical Filipino citizen always believes in God and is never ungrateful of the Divine Providence. Most of the Filipinos are devotees of the Holy Child of Prague or Sto. Niño de Cebu, the Black Nazarene of Poong Nazareno, Our Mother of Perpetual Help or Ina ng Laging Saklolo and Our Lady of Guadalupe or Birhen ng Guadalupe, the secondary patroness of the country.
St.Lorenzo Ruiz (left) or St. Lawrence Ruiz aka San Lorenzo de Manila (1600 – 29 September 1637) is the first Filipino Saint or much know as the protomartyr. He is much venerated in the Roman Catholic Church. He was martyred during persecution of Japanese Christians in Nagasaki, Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate circa 17th century.
Blessed Pedro Calungsod (below) (ca. 1654 Ginatilan, Cebu, the Philippines – 2 April 1672 in Guam) is a Filipino Roman Catholic Blessed and martyr. He was killed while doing missionary work in Guam in 1672. He was beatified on 05 March 2000 by Pope John Paul II. As a skilled sacristan, he was a companion of Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores to the Marianas Islands. Through their efforts, many receive the sacraments especially that of baptism. A plot to kill Pedro and San Vitores started when a certain Choco, Chinese who gained influence over the Macanas of Marianas Island, circulated false accusations that the missionaries were spreading poison through the ritual of the pouring of water (i.e. baptism), and through the ritual of Catholic Masses.
Aside from St. Lorenzo Ruiz and Blessed Pedro Calungsod, the Philippines is also graced by God for two Venerables namely Isabel Larrañaga Ramirez (aka "Isabel of the Heart of Jesus"), the foundress of The Sisters of Charity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and , the foundress of the Congregation of the Religious of the Virgin Mary (RVM), the first Filipino congregation for women, granted papal recognition. There are 12 Servants of God namely Dionisia de Santa Maria Mitas Talangpaz, Cecilia Rosa De Jesus Talangpaz, William Finnemann, Alfredo Maria Aranda Obviar, Joaquina Maria Mercedes Barcelo Pages, Francisca del Espiritu Santo Fuentes, Aloysius Schwartz, Eugenio Sanz-Orozco Mortera, Iustus Takayama Ukon, Jerónima de la Asunción, Maria Beatriz Del Rosario Arroyo (without nihil obstat) and Carlo Braga (without nihil obstat).One of the possible Filipino for beatification is Bishop Teofilo Camomot, a native of Carcar, Cebu, Philippines and the Coadjutor Archbishop Emertus of Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines.
The name Pampanga means "the banks" (pampang literally means "river bank") of which the first Kapampangans (pioneering Malays and Indonesians) established and nurtured their ways of life, industry, government. During the Spanish regime Pampanga was already considered as one of the richest Philippine provinces. Even Manila and surrounding regions were then very much dependent on Pampanga's agricultural, fishery, and forestry products as well as on the supply of skilled workers and breed of courageous, intelligent, spiritual, and artistic nation builders. Up to this day, Pampanga—the place, its people, and their passions—continue to make an indelible mark on the country's unfolding social, cultural, and economic tapestry.
Pampanga is best known for its cuisine— a rich blending of many racial influences (Malay, Chinese, Spanish) adapted to indigenous resources of land and water— and for the culinary expertise that its people proudly exhibit, earning for the province the appellation, "The Culinary Center of the Philippines." No other people in this country are so palatably profuse in serving the fruits of their labor in celebration of not only the positive events in their lives (such as marriages, births, reunions, good harvests, and victories) but even life-challenging episodes (to honor the dead or to recall the lessons of defeat or calamity).(Mt. Arayat above domineering Pampanga rice fields.)
Mabalacat, Pampanga. This is the beautiful place where we stay. The warm denizens here are very much religious, hospitable and happy. You can truly feel at home far away from home. It is the gateway to the lush Bamban, Tarlac. It has an airfield where the first attacks of the Kamikaze suicide pilots were launched on 20 October 1944 commanded by Vice-Admiral Takjuro Ohnishi in an attempt to destroy hundreds of ships of the Allied Forces in the Pacific Ocean, killing thousands of US soldiers during World War II. "The Memorial and Kamikaze Peace Shrine" marks the site of the old runway and it is frequently visited by tourists, especially Japanese.
Before you enter our portals, we, the Catalyzer Missionaries convey:
Manatili na sa ing karurukan mu
Malaus ka, Pampanga!
(Thanks to Bukas Palad for the background music.)